In the wake of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s landmark report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program, civil rights organizations are calling for those responsible to face immediate legal accountability. The 600-page executive summary of the report released today documents in excruciating detail episodes of sexual torture, beatings, and other forms of physical and mental abuse committed against detainees.
While partially redacted, the report is nonetheless the most detailed official accounting to date of how the CIA conducted its post-9/11 detention operations.
“Even though we previously knew many details about the torture program, the brutality this landmark report documents is breathtaking,” the ACLU’s Hina Shamsi told The Intercept. “The release of this report is a call to action for the Justice Department, Congress, and the White House. We cannot make a clean break from this nation’s history of state-sanctioned torture without accountability for the terrible human rights violations committed in our name.”
Majid Khan, currently a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, was among those whom the report describes being subjected to “rectal hydration.” The procedure, conducted “without a determination of medical need” entailed the detainee being rectally infused with a puree of food and liquids, and was carried out by interrogators to gain “total control over the detainee.”
Wells Dixon, a lawyer with the Center for Constitution Rights (CCR) and Khan’s legal counsel, told The Intercept that what his client “was subjected to was forcible rape, aggravated sexual assault.”
The report provides proof that detainees were tortured while in U.S. custody, Dixon argued. “These revelations trigger mandatory obligations on the part of the United States to prosecute those who both implemented and designed this torture program at the highest levels,” he said.
Lawyers at the Center for Constitution Rights are dubious, however, about the prospects of the Obama Administration pursuing criminal charges against those responsible for torture, calling instead on international courts to take steps to ensure accountability. “[I]f the [U.S.] government continues to refuse to hold them accountable, they must be pursued internationally under the principles of universal jurisdiction,” the group said in a statement.
Also noted were the details of the torture of Abu Zubaydah, one of the first CIA detainees subjected to the enhanced interrogation program. As described in the report, Zubaydah was subjected to repeated waterboarding, physical violence, and extended confinement in a “coffin-size box.” After enduring 17 straight days of torture, he was described as being “completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”
Zubaydah’s torture reduced him to a state of total submissiveness. As outlined in the report, Zubaydah would instinctively make physical responses to subtle non-verbal commands from his interrogator, such as a raised eyebrow or snapped finger. His torture continued even after this point, despite the determination of his interrogators that he was not providing any useful or actionable intelligence.
Crofton Black, an investigator at the human rights advocacy group, Reprieve, and who has worked on Zubaydah’s case for years, said the report confirms what his group has long argued. “Abu Zubaydah, horrifically tortured in Thailand and Poland, was not in al Qaeda and had little information to offer his interrogators,” he told The Intercept. “Despite this, the CIA decided that he ‘should remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life.’”
Reprieve is calling for bringing the architects of the terror program to justice, stating that despite the release of this report, “those responsible for signing off on [abuse] are still being feted on book tours and talk shows. We are still a long way from acknowledging the horrors of the CIA’s torture program, and achieving real accountability.”
Photo AP/Luis M. Alvarez